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Teen Implicated Self in Girl's Slaying, Police Say

Killing: Suspect told two classmates of the casino crime, and their parents called police. He is described as a smart but troubled youth.

May 30, 1997|JEFF LEEDS and JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Jeremy Joseph Strohmeyer, a once-promising 18-year-old high school senior from Long Beach, was behind bars Thursday as the suspected killer of 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson, who was raped and slain this week at a Nevada state-line casino.

Authorities said Strohmeyer attracted their attention by talking of his actions to two female classmates, whose parents reported the conversations to police. After his arrest he spoke at length with homicide investigators from the Las Vegas and Long Beach police departments and made highly incriminating statements, officials said.

"He has implicated himself in each and every step" of the crime, said Las Vegas Police Sgt. Bill Keeton.

The girl's father, LeRoy Iverson, appeared briefly outside his South-Central Los Angeles home Thursday but refused to speak with reporters.

Strohmeyer is expected to be arraigned today in Long Beach before being extradited to Nevada, probably early next week, where he could face the death penalty on charges of murder, kidnapping and four counts of rape.

"The indication we're getting is that he will not fight extradition. If he doesn't, we should get him back here fairly quickly, maybe within a few days," said Las Vegas Metro Police Homicide Lt. Wayne Petersen.

Strohmeyer, a Woodrow Wilson High School senior, had planned to attend the school prom tonight. Instead, he was taken into custody at his family's home at 7:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said that as detectives approached the house, Strohmeyer swallowed a handful of pills in what they described as a "half-hearted" suicide attempt. He was taken to Long Beach Community Medical Center to have his stomach pumped before being transported to the city jail.

Strohmeyer's companion at the casino was identified as David Cash, 18, a Wilson High senior and one of the suspect's closest friends. Cash, whose family lives in La Palma, turned himself in to police there Wednesday after his parents recognized his face on a TV broadcast of surveillance tapes from the casino and confronted him, police said. He was interviewed as a witness but not charged with any crime.

At the Iverson home Thursday a steady stream of reporters and television crews gathered from early in the morning, seeking reaction from the girl's father.

LeRoy Iverson has been widely criticized on talk radio and elsewhere since Las Vegas officials said he allowed his daughter to wander unattended through the casino arcade. Accusing some television reporters of trespassing on his property Thursday, he summoned police, who stationed themselves on the sidewalk.

"They won't leave me alone!" Iverson shouted. "They won't let me make arrangements to bury my daughter."

Not long after the police arrived, Iverson got into his van and left.

Miles to the south, at Strohmeyer's home in a Long Beach subdivision, a man drove up early in the morning and hurried inside, telling a reporter, "I'm sorry."

At his school and elsewhere in the neighborhood, a picture of Strohmeyer emerged from interviews with classmates and others who know him: a smart but troubled teenager who, until recently, seemed on the right track.

"He seemed like a guy who was poised to go on," said one classmate, Scott Burroughs, 18.

Strohmeyer attended elementary school at Grace Brethren Christian School in Cypress, where the principal described him as a very intelligent, relatively well-behaved boy who also played in Little League.

"Jeremy most certainly knows right from wrong, but like all of us, he has his choices to make," said the principal, Frank Coburn.

Strohmeyer later attended Los Alamitos High School, where he "was making A's and Bs in honors classes" during ninth and part of 10th grade, said Assistant Principal Kelly Godfrey. In 1995, the family lived in Singapore, where it had moved because of a job held by the suspect's mother, Winifred, according to neighbors. A sister, who is a student at Cal State Long Beach, remained behind.

The family returned early in 1996 to Long Beach, where Strohmeyer enrolled at Wilson midway through his junior year.

Wilson Principal Al Taylor said Strohmeyer maintained less than a 3.0 grade-point average. He was to graduate June 12.

But in recent months, students at the school said, Strohmeyer had taken a downward turn.

One acquaintance recalled seeing him try to drink a whole bottle of tequila, then scuffle with another student at a recent party. Others said he quit the volleyball team a few weeks ago, two-thirds of the way through the season.

Friends said that his parents had kicked him out of the house earlier this spring and that he had been living on his own for two or three months, although police located him at the family home when he was arrested.

While some described Strohmeyer as a joker and a sharp wit, a few acquaintances said he had begun to show a darker, violent side.

"He was pretty nice until he didn't get his way. He'd get violent. He hit me hard," a former girlfriend, Jennifer Ainley, 17, told reporters outside the school as news spread of his arrest.

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